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Script Interpretation – Letting the Copy be Your Guide

It happens all the time: you receive a script with little direction outside of ‘conversational voice’ or ‘friendly voice.’ What does that truly mean?

Brian Thon is a national producer, international voice actor and owner of True Tone Studios, LLC. If you’re looking at a script, and not sure how to interpret it, Brian offers his ideas on how to let a script guide you, making a client stand out, and varying your pitch.

Studying a Script to Self Direct

Beginner to professional, “Regardless of where you are in your journey, a study of script analysis and using our voice over techniques is always a good idea,” he says.

When reading a script, it should guide you. “The script is the map. The script paints the way to where it wants to go. We have to be intuitive, as far as that goes,” says Brian.

“So, the script has to be the guide on where it wants us to go. We have to identify that and pull out the proper technique at any given time to express it.” Brian goes on to emphasize that being a voice actor involves constant studying, growing and improving.

You need to interpret the script correctly, but with only seconds to grab your listener’s attention (or a potential client’s ear) how do you stand out?

Techniques for Script Interpreting

This brief window of time to grab the listener is one of the reasons why varying your pitch is so important. When it comes to regular conversation Brian says we all stay “in this narrow little band [of pitch] right in the middle.”

While he says there’s nothing wrong with maintaining that pitch in regular speech, he notes it’s a pattern that needs to be broken in your voice over technique, so that your listeners find your delivery more interesting.  There’s a difference between a ‘real’ conversation and a conversation as it’s used for voice over work.    

So if you’re looking for inspiration on how to “bring the flavor of the language out,” Brian suggests that you can go up in pitch, you can put some breath under a word, elongate a word, or use any combination of these.

Brian also encourages using physical gestures to make words come alive; for example, if you’re saying ‘farewell’ you could wave to add some authenticity to your read. It will change your delivery, “almost as a byproduct of a physical gesture,” he says.

Billboarding – The Importance of Making a Client Stand Out

According to Brian, if there is a client in the piece you’re voicing, you should make them stand out. The act of drawing out the product or the name of the piece to bring attention to it is known as ‘billboarding.’ When it comes to how loud you speak, he says, “You don’t want to bark at your listener, but volume is powerful. It’s often misused.” He advises getting brighter or going up in pitch to emphasize a product name.

“See, this is something we have to keep in mind as performers. We feel the need to sell our voice.” This isn’t always necessary. He says, “There are times when it may be appropriate, but generally the more conversational, natural and real you can be, the better off you’re going to be.”  

Pursuing Your Craft

The challenges in voice acting are many. Any time you act, Brian notes that there is tension because, “everybody who hears it knows it’s a performance, but it can’t sound like a performance.” You can always benefit from another perspective to enhance your ability.

About Brian Thon

Brian Thon's headshot.

Brian Thon (pronounced “Tone”) is an international Voiceover Artist whose credits include Amazon, Fox, GE, MetLife, Clarion, NYU, UCLA, Raffies Originals, and others worldwide. He has narrated independent film, appeared on camera in several, as well as written and produced in collaboration with an Emmy Award winning cinematographer and best-selling novelist.

A respected national Producer, Brian has worked with best-selling authors and musicians including a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and fellow Voiceover Talent. His portfolio spans Broadway performers, a Tony Award-nominated composer, and Hollywood movie actors. Longtime feature film standout Bill Rodgers (Switchback, Walt Disney’s Tall Tale) declares Brian “…one of the best producers I’ve ever worked with in my career.”

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  • Avatar for Jane McIntyre
    Jane McIntyre
    June 27, 2018, 6:13 am

    Thanks, Brian and Elyse! I’m spending a couple of hours looking back through the advice in these blogs—you can never stop learning! Useful tips here. I did an audition this week where the vocal direction was a string of 15 adjectives for how they wanted the voiceover’s delivery to be. FIFTEEN! When you’re working hard to produce what the client wants….this can be almost worse than no guidance at all!

    Have a good day, whichever side of the mic you’re on 🙂
    Jane McIntyre.